When you’re pounding that energy drink, do you think about the collateral damage?
Sure, you’re probably getting a short-term gain, jacked up on caffeine for a couple of hours.
But consider this research finding: People who drank 32 ounces of energy drinks in an hour developed abnormal electrical activity in their hearts and had higher blood pressure within just 4 hours. That study was done on a California college campus and published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2019.
“If you have heart problems or high blood pressure, energy drinks may not be for you. But if you choose to drink them, do so in moderation,” says Dr. Armaan Carrigan Shaikh, an interventional cardiologist with Aurora BayCare Cardiology.
Why the concern? Energy drinks are growing in popularity.
Men ages 18 to 34 consume the most energy drinks, and almost 1 in 3 young people between the ages of 12 and 17 regularly drink them, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
In the study, volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 40 drank 32 ounces of one of two energy drinks – or drank placebo beverages – on three separate days over a 15-day period.
The electrical activity of their hearts was charted via electrocardiogram, which recorded the time needed for the heart’s lower chambers to prepare to generate another beat. If that time is too short or too long, it can cause the heart to beat abnormally. That condition, arrythmia, can be life-threatening.
Those who had the energy drinks were found to have a higher interval of time between heartbeats than those who drank the placebo. Top and bottom numbers in blood pressure measurement also increased.
The energy drinks contained 304 or 320 milligrams of caffeine, but caffeine may not be the culprit. Fewer than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is within federal dietary guidelines and is not expected to cause electrocardiographic changes, the study said.
Energy drinks often contain added sugars, vitamins, legal stimulants and amino acid. More study is needed on how those ingredients interact with caffeine and affect the body.